Sunday, August 29, 2010


The end of last week brought with it the end of recruit season, and with the vala (oath ceremony) I ended my service as an alokas (recruit) and became one of many new tykkimies (translated, I believe it is cannon men).

The day started as usual at around 6am with a call for men up, lights on, and good morning! We were told to get our holiday gear on and to get ready to leave for breakfast. The idea of eating porridge in good clothes with all the coordination that a hastey wake up affords made me a little nervous, however, on it came. Boots recieved a pollish, trousers were tucked into military blousers (used instead of tucking trousers into boots, uncomfortable but much easier to get uniform blousing on both trouser legs (Because that's important!)), zips all zipped closed, beret rolled and stuffed into left breast pocket (with the lion emblem facing out), velcro name tag afixed, collar coweled.

After breakfast, which was a good time to gage the increasing chill (between 10-15 degrees), I went back to the dormatory to wait for 8am, which was when we would be heading to Sastamala where the ceremony would take place.

8am came slowly, slower still was the wait to get on the busses outside in the light but cold drizzle.

Sitting and dozzing on the bus for an estimated 1 hour brought us in to the town center where we deboarded and lined up to drop off our bags for the duration of the 'festivities'. Then back into formation, this time in height order, and a final adjustment of berets, gloves, zips, laces, and repositioning of rifles.

Then came the call for attention, heels snap together, a moment passes before we are ordered to march, left foot swings forward while the left arm swings back. The goal of marching is to move as one, a goal we had almost always failed to achieve in practices. However, for some unknown reason, possibly the fear of humiliation infront of the numerous onlookers, family and friends, we marched well enough to recieve a 'you did good' from our senior liutenant.

We marched down a street and into a park and then onto a football field where the oath was to take place. Once all the battalions had been arranged in rows and at right angles to each other, forming a three sided rectangle, the Tykistöprikaati flags were brought in.

This is one of them.

It's the same symbol that I wear on my holiday uniform, right under the Finnish flag (See VLV post).

Next we were addressed by the colonel, then by the chaplain. Finally, standing at attention we simultaneously removed our berets with our right hand and placed it in our left (with elbow at 9o degrees), then removed our right glove and held our hand up with index and middle fingers raised and the other fingers suppressed by the thumb, we were given the oath from a veteran soldier. Repeating after him the begining and the end of the oath (rather clumsily by me I think). The colonal then gave a speach, thanking the people who deserved thanks, and telling us that we we no longer recruits, but TYKKIMIES!

The parade proceeded afterwards. Marching through the town center to the beat of a drum and the rest of the military band came as a relief to my back, legs, and feet which had begun to ache after an hour and a half of standing without being able to shift my feet, also helping to shake the slight but noticable chill gained from lack of movement.

The parade over, the end in sight, all that was left was to drop off our guns before we could go and greet our spectators, and possibly more important, drink some hot coffee, eat sausages with mustard, sugar doughnuts and hot pea and ham soup.

The day ended with the collection of our bags, one final formation where we were told to have a good weekend, and a comfy bus ride back to the garrison, and my car.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The mist

Driving home after a sauna one night I saw this peculiar mist. Unlike any I had ever seen before, it was not all covering, instead hanging low to the ground in clumps and moving slowly, as seperate bodies across fields and roads.


Art in Ähtäri

A little while ago I visited the Eero Hiironen Gallery. Located about 5 minutes walk off the main street in Ähtäri, the gallery is primarily and exhibition space for a collection of Eero Hiironen's often metalic, sculptural works.

The gallery also boasts a small but impressive private collection of prints from the 1950-70s. Among the artists are Picasso, Miro, and Dali.

On another trip through Ähtäri I found a painting from the 70s for 5€ in a fleamarket store

3, 2, 1

A new addition to the 10, 5, 1 system.

At the announcement of '3 Minutes' one person from each room must stand against the door at ease, while the rest of the occupants must sit on their stools (also at ease)

Come the '2 minute' mark everyone, standing or sitting, must now be doing so at attention. Feet together, hands in fists, and if you are sitting your arms must be streched out straight with your fists on your knees.

Then at one minute, lights are turned off and everyone is in a line at the door in asento (attention).

I see red

It's been berry season here this last month or so and my tongue, teeth, and fingertips have yet to regain their normal colour.

My hunting began on a trip to the family summer cottage. I was wondering around with little to do when I spotted a little red near a hedge, careful not to lose sight of it I moved closer to find it was a very small, very red strawberry. I picked it and ate it and proceeded to do nothing else until I had eaten all in sight.

Similar to the wild strawberries than I've found in my backyard back home in shape and size, they are as dissimilar in flavour as possibly comprehensable. Perhaps a bit of a statement, however, while the ones back home are bland and watery, the ones I've found here are so rich with strawberry flavour that the smell carries metres. FACT. While walking to the soldiers home (sotko) a couple weeks ago I smelt strawberries, and couldn't think why until I spotted a few growing on the side of the path, only the restraint of my dignity kept me from diving head long into the middle of them.

Later I discovered blueberries growing like weeds while in the forrest training to plant mines, throw grenades etc. Suffice to say my purple stained fingers quickly betrayed my ill attention. On another occasion in the same forrest we were asked (read: told) to help retrieve a missing hand grenade, solid metal, not live... It took the time of a very cursory search before I changed my attentions to a more profitable and delicious end.

Weekend leave about two weeks back brought with it the opportunity of picking raspberries, On arrival the prospect of finding any looked fairly bleak. However, once you get started, and put on your raspberry eyes you can't stop seeing them. I ate as much as I collected and still ended up with about a litre or two. My berry picking partner, more fastidious and much more restrained, came away with about 3 times as much as I did.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


(essentially it means weekend leave. Viikon-the weeks, loppu- end/finish, vapaa-holiday. Or at least that's how I understand it)

To be able to leave for the weekend we must be clean shaven, hair (on our head) must not touch our ears, and our boots must pollished to the highest shine they are capable of reaching.

When we are on leave and travelling to or from the base in our uniform we must wear is correctly, no matter how hot or cold the climate. While outside we wear a berret with the lion mark over the left eye so that there is three fingerspaces of head visable over the left ear, two fingerspaces of forhead visable over the left eye, one over the right and the right ear is almost completely covered.

We must also wear our leave uniform, consisting of pants tucked into black leather boots and a jacket with the zip done up to the top, the snaps all snapped closed, the collar folded down, and the waist sinched. On the left arm we have the Finnish flag, and the gold on red Tykistöprikaati lion mark. On the right chest we have our last name. All our personal luggage is packed inside a standard issue army green duffel bag.

10, 5, 1

At some stage we were told that there are three markers before a particular event, such as meal times, the first is at 10 minutes prior. At this time you are expected to take care of any human needs, fill your drink bottle etc. At five minutes you should be back in your room making sure your locker is locked windows are closed and that you look the part of a soldier (this means tucking everything in; shirt into pants, pants into boots, laces into boots, we usually wear running shoes though (with laces tucked in of course)). Then when the one minute notice is called one person must dash to the door open it 90 degrees and stand against it in asento ('attention', with feet touching at the heels and in a 'V' shape, wide enough that you could fit both fists side by side in between the gap). The rest of the occupants must stand still and silent in a line, with the head of the line standing at attention in the doorway, and the rest staning as ease behind (the lights must be turned off too, unless someone is staying in the room). Then the information officer will direct people to open the doors at the end of the corridor, and once the last minute is up we are advised to 'mars mars' (run) as fast as we can down two flights of stairs and out two narrow doors into marching formation outside our dormatory building, while remembering to put our cap on the moment we get outside. Somtimes (always) they don't think we did it fast enough, or they thought people were talking or fidgiting so we have to do it all again from the minute mark.

3 weeks later...

So, about three weeks ago I began millitary service here in Finland, the duration of which is undecided. Originally planning to be here only 6 months, there is also the option of 9 or 12 months depending on what you would like to train in or achieve, for instance if you have any desire to let power go to your head you should stay for 12 months and become an Alikersantti (Corporal).

(It was suggested to me that officers school might be a good option as I am fluent in English. The suggestion came despite my almost complete lack of fluency in the Finnish language. However, let us see how basic training goes)

The begining-

After driving for two hours from my current home in Töysä to the military base in Niinisalo I walked through the gates, showing my conscription form to security I passed into what I didn't really realise was land that not just anyone can walk onto. It might have felt like a privilage, however, It didn't. It felt like a mixture of waiting in line at airport security and the first day of a new school, both experiences which leave me feeling nervous despite being sensible as to what I should expect. Walking through those gates left me with the positive aspects of airport security and first days of school too, and while I felt completly alone I also had a stubborn determination to stay calm, suck it up, and act like an adult!

After checking myself in, and attempting to drink a cup of steaming hot, sour black coffee I was sorted (in a somewhat less magical way than at Hogwarts) into a batteri, jaos, and tuppa (battery, unit, room (I think)).
Then off we went to the supply store room to get our first batch of military equipment; 5 tee shirts, 5 pairs of socks and underwear, 2 pairs of training jackets and 2 pairs of pants, leather boots, shower sandels, running shoes, gumboots, speedos, black shorts, track suit, 2 towels, a cap, a beret, a big back pack, a drink bottle, fork-spoon combo, food canteen, and, a sack known as sipuli sakki (onion sack). Lugging all this equipment back to our room we ran a check to make sure everyone had everything, then we organised all our gear into what had originally seemed to be quite a large locker. Having folded everthing as neatly as I could space was quite tight by the end of the day, still, the three empty clothes hangers fortold of more to come.
Changing into a pair of cammo cargo pants, an army green tee and running shoes we headed for the dining hall, in amateur formation, then back to the sleeping quarters to put on our shower gear and make a hasty dash to the showers. I think we went to bed after that (10pm bed time), though I get a little fuzzy on recollections after lunch time.
Waking up, or rather getting woken up at 6am the next day was surprisingly easy, despite having slept in till about eleven the previous day. Once again we applied bathroom gear, made a dash to brush our teeth, make buisness, and then rush back to get dressed for breakfast.

Things have not been too dissimilar since...